I looked at this photo and recoiled at first. No make-up. Looking a little pale and tired. Old t-shirt. Tired hair. Then I reconsidered my perspective. This IS who I am and what I look like almost every day. Can I live with that? I can. I can see something worth preserving in that image...at least for the sake of my children who love me. They do love me and this is how they will remember me.
Since those first baby steps, I've celebrated my 37th birthday and my 17 wedding anniversary, carried and delivered three children to add to my previous four, and buried a baby in between. The ups and downs, beautiful and not-so-lovely were chronicled here, more or less. A lot has changed in those years in the blogging world and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about those changes. For those of us who have been around for a few years, it is obvious that we must make a decision about how to proceed. There is no question that things are different... the question is how to adapt.
When I first began blogging, most of my friends and family didn't even know what a blog was. Frankly, I wasn't sure what it was either but everyone on Etsy was doing it and I decided to try my hand. It was slower at the beginning. Fewer people were blogging. The communities were smaller. There was time to think and discuss and breathe. That was my perception anyway. Fast forward almost 6 years to today...
The blogging community has become much more fast-paced, keeping up with the rest of the frenzy of internet expansion. Part of me wants to go with the flow; soup up the old blog, make some cash, brand myself, change the world. After all, everyone's doing it. The other part of me feels like a kid in high school who doesn't really fit in anywhere except her own skin. So I'm just going to keep doing what I do and put my blinders on. Because I like it here. I've made some of the most treasured friendships of my life here. Not simply "internet friends" but real relationships rooted in the heart of Christ.
I remember when I suffered the loss of my little one and gifts and prayers poured in from around the country. I remember the handmade doll that a former blogger named Sarah sent to me just because she felt like sharing. I once mentioned that I was having a rough time and very badly wanted chocolate and Cecelia mailed some right off to me. (Have you ever seen a grown woman cry tears of gratitude over a chocolate bar?) Many of you have loved me through my pregnancies and labors. We've emailed and shared our stories. I've had to ask forgiveness and extend forgiveness. I've lent and borrowed and laughed and cried. During rough times of illness and fatigue, I found fellowship here when I found leaving the house difficult. I've also walked away a few times when I needed to focus more fully on the flesh and blood members of my household only to return when the natural ebb and flow of life allowed.
I've felt the worldly tug this past year to keep up with the new frantic pace of blogging as I see the newer, more professional Catholic mama bloggers racing by me, just like the kids in high school who always seemed to figure out what I couldn't; how to get hoards of friends, get those great spiral curls, and find the right comeback line within seconds instead of hours. There's a magic bean out there that I've never been privy to and I just have to confess again for the hundredth time that... well, I just don't care that much anymore.
I keep writing for a number of reasons. I like the accountability. I find writing cathartic and clarifying. I humbly acknowledge that God has worked through some of my words to console and assist others. I enjoy the community and find encouragement and joy in meeting with likeminded sisters and brothers from all over the world. And often, I just need an outlet... a hobby.
So my heart goes back to the beginning, when I started with one follower who wasn't even a Catholic, but who stuck around just because she cared about me. Many have come and gone since then. I used to mourn the ones who left but now I know the secret to blog mama happiness: All for the greater glory of God. I don't always live it faithfully, but I know it to be true and I keep chasing it in my hobbling, broken sort of way.
When I heard the second reading yesterday at Mass, I knew it had to become my New Year's verse. It is the entire Christian life encapsulated in a few words. The instruction manual condensed. I bring it into my heart and home in a special way this year and also onto this blog...
"Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him. "
(Col. 3: 12-21)
Since this blog is not separate from my pursuit of holiness, then the guidelines remain the same. And if I fail to follow them here, then I count the entirety of the project a loss.
As we enter into this new blogging year, I would like to offer some brief words of advice to all new-ish Catholic mama bloggers out there. Because there are a lot of you. (And please know I am writing to remind myself as well.) Here you go:
Don't write the manual before you're an expert.
Hold the Snark.
Hold tight to your identity in Christ.
Let me explain...
Don't write the manual before you're an expert.
I thank God that I didn't know what blogging was until my 5th child. I have a healthy respect and reverence for that particular year and officially call it the "Year of Humility." There was no part of my pride that God did not strip down during that time. I ate humble pie for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. If I had blogged all of my previous confidence (read arrogance), one of two things would have happened: 1) I would have had to delete all of it and start over with many apologies, or (and more dangerously) 2) I would have been too attached to my own written word and perceived popularity to let the Divine Surgeon work on the hardened places of my soul. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, you should consider my words anyway... because you'll find out soon enough.
If you write an article telling people how to do anything the "right" way, you'd best be prepared to be humbled quickly. I'm well aware of that every single time I write a how-to on anything. Write an article about teaching kids to behave at Mass? Bam! I'll have a barrel of monkeys the next 52 consecutive Sundays. How to potty train? Bam! I'll immediately conceive the one child who wets the bed until she's 14. Sometimes it takes a few years, but there will be many, many times when you will engage face palm and call yourself what we all so often are... a bona fide fool.
Have you ever noticed that there are about a billion posts on how to mother toddlers but about a dozen on how to raise teenagers? There are multiple reasons for it, including a respect for the reputation of our growing children. But I think one of the biggest reasons is that mothers of teenagers know that they survive and succeed only by the grace and mercy of God... not because of their own expertise.
Slow down. The blogging world is becoming faster and faster and more competitive even among Catholic mamas. Everyone is talking incessantly and writing books and coming up with awesome content. Slow yourself down, even if it means that you are not the latest and greatest. The more you market your personal brand before you have walked a few miles in your vocation, the more painful your stripping will be. I am no prophet, but I am slightly ahead of some of you and I tell you that your time is coming. And if you think it already has, you may be surprised to find that there is a good deal more in store. (I'm pretty sure God just keeps amping it up as we grow stronger in grace.) Do not set up obstacles to humility by blogging ahead of your place. And remember, for every positive comment we get telling us how wonderful and wise we are, there is at least one reader lurking who thinks we are a first class idiot.
Hold the Snark.
Very few Christian people can get away with biting, crude words and still command some respect and authority. Most can't. If you think you do snark well, you are almost certainly wrong. There are a few female Catholic bloggers who are well loved for their bitter snark, but honestly, for every person who loves it, there's someone else wounded by it. Be funny. Be witty. Be frank. Be bold. Speak the truth. But please don't hurt others or use crude words just to try to play with the cool kids. It is the rare individual who can pull it off with any remnant of charity, dignity, or humility.
Hold tight to your identity in Christ. Hold tight to your identity which is all in Him. If you are popular, it is because He wills it. If you are successful, it is because He wills it. And if He asks you to grow in sanctity, do whatever He tells you, even if it means you lose every follower you've ever had.
Glory be to God! And happy blogging in 2014!